What is flow?

And why is it so important to productivity?

Regardless of what you do for a living, productivity is essential to having a good day. On the days when we feel like we have accomplished a lot, we can often see a difference in our mood. Therefore, finding ways to boost productivity should be a priority for you. The secret to consistent productivity comes from two factors: a clear plan for the day ahead, and a lack of distractions.

Sadly, for those who work on computers, distractions are a dime-a-dozen. Therefore, you might find it hard to break into your ‘flow’ – a state of mind that allows for us to consistently produce our best work. Flow is an essential part of delivering your best work on a regular basis. What is flow, though? And how can you do more to find your flow?

What is flow?

Flow, or deep work, is the mental state in which you can feel fully involved in the task in front of you. This means that no distracting thoughts are entering your conscious thinking. Nothing is getting in the way of you simply being able to work on what you are supposed to be dealing with. It is a form of hyperfocus that allows you to retain laser-precise thinking on that particular subject.

The term itself has been around for decades and was coined by Hungarian-American psychology expert Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. First named in 1975, the term flow has been adopted and used in many industries since. The actual feeling of flow, though, is timeless; a state of thinking that has been around long before anyone named it.

When do you need flow?

Flow is important when we have tasks to achieve, and challenges to overcome. When we need to give something our full attention, and our complete focus. If you have to overcome a challenging piece of work or take on something outside of your comfort zone, it will likely require you to be 100% focused. To achieve that, you need to find ways of blocking out distractions. 

Let us say that you need to write an article for your company blog. The topic itself might not be the most motivating or, for you at least, interesting. This means that it is easy for distractions to enter your mind. This could be notifications popping up from websites and chat applications. It could be music playing in the background. It could even be as simple as the background noise emanating from life outside.

Whatever the cause, when you are not in flow these distractions take over. You find it hard to focus on the task in front of you. Your mind wanders, focus on personal questions and perhaps trains of thought you have never seriously considered. This leaves you unable to give 100% to the task(s) you need to complete.

Flow is achieved almost subconsciously. How you enter flow varies from person to person. You know that you have been in flow, though, when you look at the clock and wonder where the time has gone. You have reached flow when you are working through the subject matter at hand without having to really stop or break your train of thought. It all feels natural as if you have been born to do this very task.

By feeling absorbed in the task at hand, flow allows us to think without thinking so to speak. It means you can give the topic matter your complete and undivided attention. The challenge, of course, is ensuring that you can enter flow when you need it most.

Finding your flow

One of the secrets to entering a state of flow is to remove all visible distractions. For many people, this can mean getting rid of anything that can take your mind off the task at hand. For example, you might find it easier to enter and stay in a state of flow by:

  • Removing distracting notifications such as emails, and smartphone messages
  • Letting others know that you are ‘in flow’ so they do not disturb your productivity
  • Timing your breaks so that you maximize your flow, but pause when you slow down
  • Working with colleagues and partners to find the best times to work for maximum flow
  • Learning when you seem to enter the best state of productivity and building plans around that

Want to make sure your flow is not interrupted?

Being in flow is a great feeling, and can lead to immense productivity and personal progress. However, as we all know, our always online, interconnected lives mean it is increasingly easy to be disrupted. All it takes is one message to knock you out of your flow. To avoid this habit, you can use several tools to help you stay ‘in the zone – including useful desktop applications.

One of the best apps for maintaining flow is OctoPro. This easy-to-use application allows for Windows and Mac users to retain focus. By automatically enabling Do Not Disturb (DND) mode upon reaching “flow”, OctoPro makes sure you avoid distractions. 100% free to use, too, this app can only help you to remain productive. Why not try it out for yourself today, and see why so many people find OctoPro beneficial?